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Your livin home guide A guide to the services provided by livin.

Contents 1

Introduction 1


A guide to your tenancy rights and responsibilities


A guide money matters, paying your rent and debt advice 1 - 3


A guide to taking care of your home



A guide to reporting repairs



A guide to gas safety



A guide to asbestos



A guide to Legionella control



A guide to dampness & condensation



A guide to understanding tenants improvements



A guide to aids and adaptations



A guide to managing and improving your neighbourhood and communities 1-5


A guide to tackling antisocial behaviour



A guide to getting involved



A guide to giving feedback on our services 1-5


A guide to moving on



A guide to ending your tenancy



Useful contacts



Welcome to your livin home guide

We provide an “On the phone and in your home� service which means that our teams are on hand to offer advice and support at a time, and location, convenient for you.

You, our tenants, are at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to providing you with excellent services and ensuring you can choose to have a say in how we develop your services in the future.

Once again, welcome to livin and I hope you find this guide helpful and interesting. Please contact us if you have any questions about your home or the services we provide.

This guide provides a range of interesting and helpful information; it will act as a useful reference guide to living in your home and community. We want you to be settled in your home and make a success of your tenancy.

Colin Steel Chief Executive of livin 1


A guide to your tenancy rights and responsibilities

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to your tenancy rights and responsibilities


n Fixed term probationary tenancy

Your tenancy agreement is a very important legal document which you should keep safe. It includes the rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant and the rights and responsibilities we have as your landlord.

n Fixed term tenancy

Transferring assured tenancy If you were a tenant of Sedgefield Borough Council at the time of the stock transfer, you have the same tenancy agreement as an Assured (nonshorthold) tenant (see paragraph below). However, you will retain the protected “Right to Buy” your home that existed at the time of the transfer.

When you accepted your home you signed a tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement will be either an “Assured (non-shorthold) tenancy”, or an “Assured (shorthold) tenancy (starter tenancy)” or a “Fixed term tenancy” and will be clearly identified on your tenancy agreement.

Assured (non-shorthold) tenancy This is a standard tenancy agreement. It allows you to stay in your home for as long as you keep to the conditions of the tenancy agreement.

As an assured tenant you have the right to live in your home for as long as you wish, provided that you keep to the terms of the tenancy agreement. If you are not going to be living in your home for any length of time, we need to know. You may be going into hospital for example, and we need to know how to get in touch with you and who will be looking after your home while you are away.

We will give Assured (non-shorthold) tenancy agreements to new tenants who have transferred from another Registered Provider or Local Authority, and to those tenants who have held an Assured (shorthold) tenancy (starter tenancy), with us for 12 months, unless they have broken the tenancy conditions.

Brief details of the types of tenancy we use are noted below.

Fixed term tenancy A tenancy is for a predefined fixed period of time (minimum of five years). Such tenancies will normally only be offered where a property is let on an affordable rent basis. The following factors will apply when making a decision about offering and/or extending a fixed term tenancy:

Types of tenancy n Transferring assured tenancies n Assured (non-shorthold) tenancies n Assured (shorthold) tenancy (starter tenancy) n Demoted tenancies

n livin reserves the right to issue the most appropriate type of tenancy to take account 2

of unpaid rent, nuisance problems, moving out of the property without telling us or if you are neglecting the property. We may also extend your starter or Probationary tenancy for a period of six months.

of the individual circumstance of the applicant to ensure it would not have an adverse effect on the tenant or wider community n Fixed term tenancies will normally be extended, if the tenant’s household circumstances have not changed

If you are an Assured (shorthold) tenant (starter tenant) you will not have the following rights:

n Where a tenant does not have their fixed term tenancy extended they will have the right to appeal the decision in accordance with an agreed procedure

n Right to make improvements

n When a fixed term tenancy is not extended, advice and assistance will be provided that fully considers the housing options available to the household

n Right to acquire

n Right to compensation for eligible improvements n Right to exchange n Right to take in lodgers and sub-let part of your home

Demoted tenancy

Assured (shorthold) starter or probationary tenancy

Should an assured tenant cause antisocial behaviour, the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003, enables us to demote Assured tenancies to Assured (shorthold) tenancies (starter tenancies), for a period of 12 months.

If you are a new tenant and have not transferred from another Registered Provider or Local Authority, we will give you an Assured (shorthold) tenancy (starter tenancy) agreement or a Fixed term probationary tenancy. The agreement lasts for 12 months. If there have not been any problems with the conduct of your tenancy, we will convert you to an Assured (non-shorthold) tenancy or a fixed term tenancy after those 12 months.

At any time during this period of demotion the tenancy can be brought to an end. If no action is taken during the demotion period the tenancy will become a fully assured (non-shorthold) tenancy after 12 months. If you are unsure, or would like further information concerning your tenancy, please contact your Communities Team.

If you break the tenancy conditions, we may take legal action against you which could lead to you losing your home. This could be because 3


A guide to your tenancy rights and responsibilities

Your rights

of these improvements. This will be explained further at the time you apply for permission to carry out the work.

Right to take in lodgers and sub-let part of your home

Right to exchange

You may take in lodgers as long as you do not grant a sub-tenancy or exceed the number of people allowed to live in your home.

You can exchange this tenancy for another assured tenancy of a Registered Provider or secure tenant of a Local Authority subject to first getting our written consent.

As long as you first get our written consent, you may sub-let part of your home. We may give consent subject to reasonable conditions. You must not grant a sub-tenancy of the whole of your home.

Right to consultation We will consult you on matters affecting your home and your tenancy.

Right to make improvements to your home

Right to information

You may make improvements, alterations and additions to your home, including external decoration, fixtures and fittings, as long as you get our written permission and all other necessary approvals (for example, planning permission or building regulations approval) beforehand.

Right to buy

You have a right to information from us about the terms of your tenancy. For further details please refer to your tenancy agreement.

If you were a tenant of Sedgefield Borough Council at the time your home was transferred to us, and you live in a general needs home (this is a property that is not for elderly or disabled people), then you may have a preserved right to buy. This means you may be able to buy your home at a discounted price.

If in doubt, please ask us first. When you move out we may ask you to pay the cost of putting right any alterations you have made to the property without our permission.

Right to compensation for eligible improvements

Right to acquire If you don’t have the preserved right to buy, then you may still qualify to buy your home through the right to acquire scheme.

If you carry out certain improvements to your home and then your tenancy ends, you may be entitled to some compensation towards the costs 4

Right of succession – the right to pass on your tenancy

The right to assign your tenancy Passing your tenancy to someone else while you are alive is called assignment. In certain circumstances you may be able to assign your tenancy to another person who is living with you and who would qualify to take over the tenancy. This will depend on the circumstances and the type of tenancy agreement you have. We will normally only agree to an assignment if the person would have been entitled to “succeed” to the tenancy, (see the previous section on succession).

If you are an assured (non-shorthold) tenant, your husband, wife or civil partner may have the right to take over the tenancy when you die, as long as you were not a successor to the tenancy yourself. This is called “the right of succession.” If you are unmarried or widowed, or if your partner does not claim the tenancy when you die and there has not already been a succession, we may be prepared to give this right to another close member of your family. They must have been living with you for over 12 months before your death.

If there has already been an assignment or a succession, legally there are no further rights to take over the tenancy. However, in certain circumstances we may pass the tenancy to your sons, daughters or other close relatives who have always lived with you.

By law a tenancy can only be succeeded once. This means that if your tenancy was passed to you when someone died, it cannot be passed on again when you die. However, in certain circumstances we may pass the tenancy to your sons, daughters or other close relatives who have always lived with you. If a property has been specially built or adapted for a disabled person and where there is nobody in the household who needs these features after you die, we may offer more suitable alternative accommodation to anyone still living in your home.

You cannot pass your tenancy to someone else if you leave your home because, by leaving, you will no longer be an assured tenant.



A guide to your tenancy rights and responsibilities


Our responsibilities to you

Your responsibilities as a tenant

We will:

Your main responsibilities are:

n Let you live in your home for as long as you want to, as long as you keep to the conditions of your tenancy

n To pay your rent and other charges when due n To use the property as your main home

n We will carry out any important repairs to your home – please see the “Repairs” section of your handbook

n To insure your personal belongings, furniture and decorations against fire, theft, vandalism or burst pipes

n Let you know about any changes we want to make to your tenancy agreement or changes to the services we provide

n To keep the property and garden areas in a clean and tidy condition n To ask our permission before carrying out any alterations or improvements to the property

n Listen to your views about any proposed changes and give you at least four weeks’ notice before any changes start

n To have our consent in writing before sub- letting part of the property

n We will insure the structure of your home, but not the contents (you are responsible for insuring your personal belongings)

n To make sure that you, your family, or any friends or visitors to the property, do not cause nuisance or harass your neighbours or anyone living or working in the area n To allow our employees, contractors or agents acting on our behalf access to your home at reasonable times and subject to reasonable notice, particularly in relation to the servicing of gas appliances


Home contents insurance

Further information

Tenants are responsible for insuring their personal belongings, furniture and decorations against fire, theft, vandalism or burst pipes.

If you have any questions about your tenancy, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

To make it easier for our tenants to get home contents insurance, we have negotiated a Home Contents Insurance scheme designed specifically for our tenants. You can insure the contents of your home in an easy and affordable way. The benefits of the scheme include: n No hidden costs n Cover for theft and loss of keys n New for old cover (except clothing and household linen where an allowance for wear and tear is deducted) n Easy payments weekly, fortnightly, monthly or annually For full details of the scheme, please contact us.

Buildings insurance This covers the structure of your home. As your landlord we are responsible for insuring all its buildings including your home.



A guide to money matters, paying your rent and debt advice

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to money matters, paying your rent and debt advice


Payment options

We have introduced this chapter to help you manage your finances. Paying your rent is important. It is a condition set out in your tenancy agreement that rent and/or other charges (including water rates) must be paid on time. Failure to do so will result in action being taken against you, which could ultimately result in us recovering possession of your home through the County Court.

We offer a number of different ways to help make paying your rent as easy as possible. You can pay: n By Direct Debit. This is the easiest and most convenient way to pay your rent. We offer a choice of three payment dates to suit monthly or weekly payments. Contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile n By Standing Order, either weekly or monthly

It is rarely too late to seek help – if your account is in arrears or if you think you will be unable to pay your next rent payment, contact the Home Support Team to arrange a repayment plan or speak to a Financial Inclusion Officer.

n Online at n We can also issue payment cards so that you can pay at over sixty local outlets including Post Offices, and all over the UK. Look for the Paypoint sign

Ways we can help We can help to make sure that you are claiming all of the benefits that you are entitled to, how to deal with debt and maximise your income. One thing to remember about claiming benefits is that the sooner you claim the sooner you can ‘benefit’; not all benefit claims can be backdated.

n By phone. Our payment line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 01388 814704. You will need your tenancy number and your credit or debit card details n By post. Simply send your payment (we advise you not to send cash) to livin, Farrell House, Arlington Way, DurhamGate, Spennymoor, County Durham, DL16 6NL with a note telling us your name, address and tenancy number and we will send you a receipt. Please make cheques payable to livin

The Financial Inclusion Team will help and support you in maximising your income and prioritising your debt, we also work in partnership with Citizens Advice Bureau and can refer you for confidential and free debt and money advice if you have debt problems. You can be referred to other agencies, if specialist advice is needed.


Contacts For more information about any of the above payment methods, please contact the Home Support Team on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. If you are having difficulty paying your rent, it is important to contact your Payment Improvements Advisor at the earliest opportunity. You may be entitled to claim Housing Benefit to help with your rent payments. To find out, you can make an online claim by visiting the Durham County Council website at

Further information If you have any questions about your rent, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. Further information relating to your rent can also be found on our website at



A guide to taking care of your home

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to taking care of your home


Once a repair has been reported, quite often we will need to be inside your home to carry out the necessary work. You can help us by agreeing suitable access arrangements.

This chapter explains your responsibilities for looking after your home. As a general rule we are responsible for the structure of your home along with the plumbing, heating and electrics.

If suitable access cannot be arranged for us to carry out repairs, we may decide to exercise our rights as a landlord to gain entry to your home to carry out the repair. This will depend on the nature of the repair, considering Health and Safety matters and the risk of further damage being caused to your home and adjoining properties.

We will maintain the components of your home when they require it and will carry out necessary repairs, but you also share the responsibility with us for taking care of your home.

Reporting repairs

We will also need access to your home to carry out various types of surveying work. We need to carry out these surveys to determine our future planned work programmes, to check that your home is safe and also to ensure that our property records are accurate.

You are responsible for reporting a repair when one is needed. This should be done promptly and you should take reasonable precautions to prevent further damage until we arrive to carry out the repair.

Allowing us access to your home

Emergency access

We will need to be able to access your home from time to time to allow us to carry out important maintenance work.

There may be circumstances where we need to gain access to your home urgently; for example a sudden flood or a gas leak. If you are unavailable, we will make attempts to contact you, however, we may need to force entry without your permission. In these circumstances we will involve the emergency services, leave your home secure, and leave contact details for when you return.

If you have a heating appliance, we need to access your home each year to carry out a safety check. These checks are important as they ensure that your fixtures and fittings are safe and help to prevent these appliances from breaking down which could leave you without heating and hot water.


Keeping your home in reasonable condition

If we are required to repair this damage, we may decide to recharge you for this service.

To keep your home in a reasonable condition you will need to carry out some regular maintenance work.

Internal decoration You are responsible for the decoration of all internal walls, ceilings and woodwork. This includes the filling of minor cracks and holes before you redecorate.

Activities such as window cleaning, sweeping and weeding garden paths, keeping drainage grates clear of debris, removing rubbish and gardening not only keep your home clean but can also help to keep your home safe for you and your family.

TV aerials We will only maintain communal systems. The maintenance of aerials and satellite dishes is your responsibility.

Keeping your house warm can help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting in the winter. Operating extractor fans and opening windows can also reduce the occurrence of condensation.

Minor repairs Some repairs are your responsibility and we will not carry out the repairs on the following list;

Repairing deliberate or accidental damage

n Adjusting doors after the fitting of new carpets

You are responsible for the repair or replacement of damage caused to your property by you, your family, visitors or even your pets. These repairs should be made using suitable materials and should be carried out to a standard, matching the original condition.

n Clearing blocked bath, basin, sink or toilet (unless a blocked drain) n Replacing plugs to bath, basin or sink n Repairs to toilet seats

We may carry out this repair for you, but you will be charged for this service.

n Repairs to door bells (unless part of door entry systems)

Reporting criminal damage

n Repairs to clothes posts and clothes lines

If someone damages or vandalises your home, and you do not want to be held responsible, you must report the matter to the police, obtain a crime reference number and cooperate with the police during their investigation.

n Plumbing of washing machines or dishwashers n Installation/disconnection of cookers and other electrical appliances 3


A guide to taking care of your home done by pressing the test button. If batteries are required, you are responsible for their replacement.

n Electrical plugs, fuses, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes n Installation of additional bolts or locks to external doors, outbuildings, gates and so on.

In the event of a fire or the occurrence of carbon monoxide, these devices will give you and your family precious seconds to escape serious injury

Replacement of lost or stolen keys

or even death.

We do not keep spare keys so if you lose them, you will need to replace them. We can change locks, but we will charge you for this service.

County Durham handyperson This scheme is run by Three Rivers Housing Association’s Care and Repair department. The service can help with small scale jobs for residents of County Durham who are over 60, disabled, victims of crime, at high risk of falling or who are vulnerable in other ways.

Maintenance of your own fixtures and fittings You are responsible for the repair, replacement and servicing of any fixture, fitting or appliance that you have added to your home, including outdoor sheds.

If you feel that you meet these criteria and you need a job carried out that does not come within livin’s responsibility please ring 0191 375 3705 or email:

You are also responsible for the repair and replacement of any improvement or alteration that you have made to your home (unless we have an agreement to maintain it for you).

Further information If you have any questions about your caring for your home please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

Testing of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors We will repair defective smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. We will also carry out annual function testing of these alarms, cleaning them and ensuring that they are in good working order. You are responsible for checking the operation of these alarms on a weekly basis. This can be



A guide to reporting repairs

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to reporting repairs



This chapter explains what you should do when your home needs a repair, and how we will respond.

You can report your repair by telephoning the following numbers:

We are committed to making sure that we provide you with a high quality, efficient and effective repairs service.

0300 111 2344 (cheaper from mobiles – charges vary depending on your network)

0800 587 4538 (free from a landline) or


Some repairs may be your responsibility. If you are unsure if we are responsible for the work that needs doing, please refer to our leaflet ‘Taking care of your home’.

You can also report your repair 24 hours a day and seven days a week by using our ‘Locator’ system. We have introduced this system to make it easy for you to report your repairs online. All you have to do is point and click on the diagram of the item you need repairing and it will identify what the problem is and order the correct repair for you.

Reporting repairs You are responsible for reporting a repair when one is needed. This should be done promptly and you should take reasonable precautions to prevent further damage until we arrive to carry out the repair. For example place a bucket under leaks.

It also gives you the opportunity to tell us when you will be in, so that we can make a suitable appointment, which will then be emailed to you.

When you report a repair, you will need to give the following information:

You can also email us with repair queries at

n A description of the problem and where it is n Your name and address, including the postcode

In writing You can also contact us by letter. Please remember to include all of the relevant information which we will need to make you an appointment, and to enable us to send the appropriate tradesperson.

n Telephone numbers where we can contact you (home and/or work) n Details of how to get into your home (if necessary)


Your repairs information

If your repair is not an emergency, the call centre staff will offer you appropriate advice about how to deal with your problem or will arrange for someone to call during normal working hours.

After contacting us about a repair you will be given a job reference number and telephone numbers to call if you want to check on the progress of your repair.

You may also be asked to help resolve or make safe an emergency yourself, such as turning off the water supply, and it is therefore always useful to know the location of certain essential items, for example your boiler (please note the manufacturer’s name), fuse box, gas meter, electric meter, water stop tap and water tanks.

Depending on the type of repair you need, you should also be given an appointment. If you prefer to check the progress of your repair online, you need to be registered for our Online Services facility. To register, please visit our website and click on the tab ‘about your home’.

When the out of hours team are required to respond, they will complete a repair in full whenever possible, but in some situations a ‘make safe’ or temporary repair will be carried out. Please do not expect the job to be done fully during emergency hours.

Once you have registered we will send you an activation code in the post and then you will be free to view the services and accounts you want, when you choose.

Out of hours repairs

If a ‘make safe’ or temporary repair has been carried out, we will arrange for a permanent repair to be completed within normal working hours.

If you have an emergency repair to report out of normal working hours, you can contact us using the following telephone numbers: 0800 917 1773 (freephone number) or

Our trained staff are ready to deal with all emergencies such as:

0300 111 2344 (cheaper from mobiles – charges vary depending on your network)

n Total loss of electrical power

This service is for emergencies only so please only ring if you have a genuine emergency repair. The out of hours emergency service only deals with very urgent work, not jobs that can safely be left until normal working hours. The call centre staff will determine whether your request is an emergency.

n Unsafe power or lighting socket n Serious leaks in water systems which cannot be contained n Serious roof leaks which cannot be contained



A guide to reporting repairs Pre-inspected repairs Attended to by appointment

n Gas leaks

n Security of property e.g. fixing locks, boarding up

Where a repair cannot be diagnosed clearly over the telephone, we will carry out an inspection to determine the extent of the repair required. Our customer services team will make a mutually agreed appointment with you for an inspection to be carried out, and our inspector will inform you of what action we will be taking. Customer services will be advised of the necessary repairs, and an appointment will be made with you for the work to be carried out.

n Gain entry to a property (if due to loss of keys, this will be a rechargeable repair) n Failure of a stair lift (e.g. where tenant cannot access facilities n Heating failures involving vulnerable people The two hour target for attending to an emergency can only be adhered to if sufficient resources are available to carry out the work, for example during times of extreme weather conditions it is unlikely that sufficient resources would be available to respond to every emergency at the same time.

Allowing us access to your home Once a repair has been reported, we will need access to your home to carry out the necessary work. You can help us by agreeing suitable appointments and by informing us in advance if these arrangements are no longer suitable.

Emergency out of hours calls are expensive to the organisation and if you abuse the system we may charge you for the visit to your home.

Prior to the appointment please make sure that our repairs team have access to the area in which they will be working. This will involve you removing any of your fixtures and fittings that may get in the way.

Repair priorities When you report a repair it is placed into one of two categories; a repair with an appointment time or a repair that requires a pre-inspection:

You should also take reasonable steps to protect your personal belongings, for example, lift your carpets, move items of furniture and store any fragile or breakable possessions well away from the workplace.

Repairs Attended to by appointment This category is for repairs which can be clearly diagnosed over the telephone and which are not emergency repairs. Our customer services team will make a mutually agreed appointment with you for the repair to be carried out. 4

Text ahead


Before an appointment takes place, if we have your contact telephone number we will send you a text message to remind you that we are coming to carry out the repair. This will give you a further opportunity to contact us if the appointment is no longer suitable. To enable us to provide this service, please ensure that we have an up to date telephone number.

Always ask to see the identity card of anyone who calls at your home to carry out repairs and claims to work for livin. All staff carries identification cards. If you are unsure, do not let them into your home and contact us for advice.

Emergency situations In an emergency, we may need to enter your home if we believe that a situation could cause personal injury, cause serious damage to your home or damage a neighbouring home. If this situation occurs, we will make every effort to contact you.

Missed appointments Once an appointment has been made with you to carry out a repair, you need to arrange for yourself or another adult to be present for the duration of the works. The delivery of a repairs service is expensive, and we cannot afford to make multiple visits to your home in order to carry out a repair. If you abuse the system we may charge you for the visit to your home.

Rechargeable repairs Paying for the repairs You don’t have to pay for things that have been damaged by fair wear and tear. If there is a doubt about how the damage happened we will come and check the problem before we make a decision. We will also decide whether to take any further action because; if you have caused the damage then you have also broken your tenancy agreement.

Quality assurance We could ask you to let us check the work done in your home. If we do, please let us in to do this, as it will help ensure the works are carried out to a high standard. We may also ring you to enquire about your satisfaction with repairs. Your feedback is helpful to us as it can be used to improve the services that we provide.



A guide to reporting repairs



We only charge you for the work if the damage is caused deliberately, an accident or by neglect. We will not ask you to pay if the damage has been caused by fair wear and tear or because of the age of the property or installation.

You can refuse to have this work done, but NOT if the damage poses a health and safety issue or risks further damage being caused to your home. In these circumstances, we may decide to exercise our rights as a landlord to gain entry to your home to carry out the repair.

If your repair is rechargeable we will let you know how much you will have to pay and you will be asked to sign an ‘acceptance for recharge’ form before we agree to do the work.

You can choose to do the work yourself, but we must be allowed to come and check that the work has been completed to an acceptable standard. If the work is not to an acceptable standard we will carry out the work for you and recharge you for the costs.

Once the work is completed we will send you a bill. If you want time to pay the money we can make an agreement to collect it in instalments. If the bill is not paid, or the payment of the instalments maintained, we could take legal action to recover the debt.

Termination of your tenancy If you terminate your tenancy we will carry out a survey of your home. If there is any damage identified we will seek to recover the repair costs. If necessary, we may use legal action to recover the monies owed.

You should know that outstanding debt may also prevent you transferring to another one of our homes.

Further information If you have any questions about the repairs service, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.



A guide to gas safety

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to gas safety


n There is not enough fresh air in your room (do not block air bricks or other vents)

This chapter explains the gas safety service. By law we must ensure that all of our homes that have a gas supply have an annual gas safety check. The gas safety check that we carry out is very important, as it will ensure that our gas appliances and fittings are safe to use and we will carry out a visual check to your own gas appliances (cookers and fires) while we are in your property. This ensures that your gas fixtures and fittings are safe. All safety checks are free of charge.

n Your chimney or flue is blocked n You have allowed unqualified people to install or maintain your gas appliances.

Accessing your home Making appointments with you At least 10 working days before we carry out the annual gas safety check we will give you an appointment. If this appointment is inconvenient, please contact us on freephone 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 (cheaper from mobiles – charges vary) and we will rearrange it to a time that suits you better.

The dangers of carbon monoxide Every year, approximately 50 people die in the UK from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been properly fitted or maintained.

If you are unavailable during normal working hours, we will make you a special appointment on an evening or on a weekend.

When gas does not burn properly, it produces poisonous carbon monoxide. You can’t see it. You can’t taste it. You can’t even smell it. Carbon monoxide can kill without warning in just a matter of hours.

If you cannot keep your appointment, please let us know in advance. If you do not, our costs increase and our time is wasted.

Text ahead

The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include tiredness, drowsiness, headache and pains in the chest and stomach. You are at risk of this if:

If we have your contact telephone number we will send you a text message to remind you that we are coming to carry out the gas safety check. This will give you a further opportunity to contact us if the appointment is no longer suitable. To enable us to provide this service, please ensure that we have an up to date telephone number for you.

n Your gas appliances are not working properly n Your gas appliances have not been checked for safety or maintained regularly 2

Failing to allow us access

If you haven’t got a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector fitted already, then we will fit one for you free of charge.

Despite the importance of gas safety checks, a small number of our tenants do not allow our gas engineers access to their home.

We will explain the gas safety certificate, send out by post two to three days after the service a copy of the certificate and tell you what we will do next if any extra work is needed.

Failure to allow access for the annual gas safety check to be completed is a breach of your tenancy agreement and you may be charged the cost of any missed appointments.

The gas safety check will only take up around one hour of your time to complete. We will protect the areas where we work with dustsheets and our engineers will clear up any mess that is made.

If you do not allow us access you will receive a warning card from the gas engineer. If you fail to allow us access for a second appointment you will receive a further warning card from the engineer.

This work could save you money as it will ensure that our gas appliance(s) are in good working order.

If a further appointment is not kept you will receive a final warning card and if you still fail to allow the gas safety check to be completed after receiving these cards, your details will be passed to the Support and Intervention Team for legal action to be taken. This could result in you losing your home!

Any problems with our gas appliances during the period between annual gas safety checks should be reported to our customer service centre immediately by calling 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

What happens during a gas safety check?

Gas Safe Register

During the gas safety check we will service and repair all the gas appliances that we own. We will also carry out a visual inspection your own appliances, such as your cooker, and list any faults. You can then arrange any necessary repairs.

Gas Safe Register is the new Governing body responsible for ensuring that all our gas engineers are qualified and competent to work in your home. The Gas Safe Register scheme came into effect on 1 April 2009 and is administered by the Health and Safety Executive. By law anyone who works with gas has to be registered with the Gas Safe Register and should carry photographic registration cards as proof of this.

We will also check that all of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are clean and are working correctly. If any of your detectors are not working properly then we will repair or replace them for you free of charge. 3


A guide to gas safety however, you should ensure that you test them on a weekly basis by pressing the ‘test’ button. If you are elderly or disabled, ask a relative, friend or neighbour to do it for you.

Always remember to check the engineer’s registration card before allowing them to carry out work on your gas appliances. All our gas engineers are registered with the Gas Safe Register.

Under no circumstances should you disconnect or remove batteries from smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

For more information on the Gas Safe Register visit their website at

How will I know the work has been done correctly?

What should I do if I smell gas? Turn off your gas supply immediately. Find the lever next to your meter and move it one quarter of the way round, either right or left, until the gas stops.

We only employ qualified staff to carry out this work and you will be given a copy of the Landlord’s Gas Safety record. We will also check a sample of works done to make sure it is carried out to a very high standard.

Once the gas has been turned off, open the windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air. Do not turn any electrical switches on or off, light matches or lighters, or smoke.

We may ask you to let us or a contractor working on our behalf to check the work done in your home. If we do, please let us in to do this, as it will help ensure the work has been carried out to a high standard.

Immediately ring the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. They will come to your home and make it safe.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors

If the engineer from the National Gas Emergency Service tells you something in your home needs to be repaired, call our contact centre on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 (cheaper from mobiles) and we will arrange for one of our engineers to call.

Most of our homes are fitted with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. In the event of a fire or the occurrence of carbon monoxide, these devices will give you and your family precious seconds to escape serious injury or even death.

If you believe you may have suffered from any symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning visit your GP or the hospital at the earliest opportunity.

We will check that these detectors are in good working order during the annual gas safety check,


Stay safe n Never use a gas appliance if you think it is not working properly. Signs to look out for include yellow or orange flames, soot or stains around the appliance and pilot lights which frequently blow out. n Never cover an appliance or block the convection air vents n Never block or obstruct any fixed ventilation grills or airbricks n Never block or cover outside flues

Further information If you have any questions about gas safety, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile, or the gas servicing team at Mears Ltd. on 0845 602 5983.



A guide to asbestos

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A guide to asbestos

What is asbestos?

Where in my home could I find asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous material that is made from a group of natural materials found in rocks. Large amounts of asbestos-containing materials (ACM’s) were used for a wide range of construction purposes in new and refurbished buildings until 1999 when all use of asbestos was banned.

Asbestos can be found in many materials including:

This means that some homes built or refurbished before this time may contain asbestos.

n Fascia and soffit boards

When is asbestos a problem?

n Pads fitted beneath stainless-steel sinks

Generally, asbestos is perfectly safe if it is in good condition and not disturbed or damaged. However, if asbestos containing materials are in poor condition or are damaged or disturbed, for example, drilled, cut or sanded, this can release fibres into the air. Breathing in these fibres can cause serious damage to the lungs.

n Cold-water tanks in loft spaces

n Roofing sheets, roof slates and tiles n Roofing felts or lining panels n Guttering and rainwater pipes n External wall cladding and panels

n Panels beneath window frames

n Service ducting n Tiles, slats, canopies and firebreaks above ceilings n Internal partitions walls n Decorative textured coatings

Sound, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials do not pose a direct health risk but they should be carefully managed to ensure they are in good condition and to prevent fibres being

n Panels behind or under heaters

released accidentally.

n Bath panels

n Panels on or inside fire-resisting doors n Toilet cisterns

n Floor tiles and linoleum *This list is not exhaustive


What do I do if I find asbestos?

What if asbestos is found in my home?

You can’t tell whether something contains asbestos simply by looking at it. Often you can only find out by analysing it in a specialist laboratory.

If we find some asbestos-containing material that has been identified as high risk, we will remove it immediately using licensed contractors. If the asbestos-containing material carries a much lower risk, we will:

If you think any material may contain asbestos or if you think your home contains damaged asbestos material, then don’t try and deal with it yourself, contact us immediately on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

n remove (if appropriate) when we do any major building work to your home, or n seal and bond the material to stop it releasing fibres. If the material is in good condition, sealed and not exposed, and so unlikely to break up, we will record its type and where it is.

How do we manage asbestos? We have a legal duty to protect against the health risks posed by asbestos.

We share our surveys with all of our contractors so they are aware of the presence of asbestos and will take this into account before they start any work.

We regularly survey and sample all our empty properties for any possible asbestos-containing materials and if we find asbestos containing materials, we record these on our database.

We will also inform you about the presence of asbestos in your home after a survey has been conducted, we will also inform you if no asbestos is present.

When planning refurbishment or major repair work for your home, we will arrange for a survey to be undertaken before we begin the work, if there is not a survey already in place.

If asbestos containing material has been found within your home from time to time we will arrange with you to re-inspect the material.

A specialist surveyor from the asbestos surveying company we use will make an appointment with you to come and do the survey. They may need to take samples from your home for testing. We need to know what asbestos-containing material may be in your home before starting any building work. If you don’t allow the surveyor into your home, this could delay the planned work. 3


A guide to asbestos

Frequently asked questions

what needs to be done to make it safe.

What are the health risks?

I’ve been told my decorative wall coating (Artex) contains asbestos. What is it and is it safe?

Asbestos-containing materials can cause serious illness, including some forms of cancer. Often it takes many years for the disease to show itself.

Decorative coating was widely used in properties on interior walls and ceilings. Older types of decorative coating contained a small amount of asbestos. Decorative coating is safe as long as it is left alone - it is very hard and is unlikely to produce dust.

There is asbestos-containing material in my home, why not remove it straight away? Disturbing asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition may produce dust and increase health risks. We survey homes to find out whether there are asbestos-containing materials, we also check their condition. Materials in good condition do not cause health problems.

Can I hang a picture on a wall coated with old decorative coating? Tapping in a normal picture hook is not a problem, but never drill or screw through old decorative coating as this could create harmful dust.

If we find materials in poor condition, we will consider removing them or sealing them. However, when we need to do building work on your home, disturbing asbestos may be unavoidable. If so, we would look at how we could safely remove the material.

Your guide to asbestos in your home

I may have disturbed or damaged some asbestos containing materials in my home - what should I do?

You can paint walls and ceilings coated with old decorative coating, but do not scrape. If you notice any damaged areas, please contact the

Can I decorate walls and ceilings coated with old decorative coating?

Contact our Building Health and Safety Team on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile and we will arrange to have the material inspected and assessed. We will then decide


Building Health and Safety Team for advice.


Is it OK for tenants to sand off old decorative coating?

I have noticed some broken pieces of plastic floor tile that I think contain asbestos. Is my health at risk?

No, because this could cause large amounts of harmful dust. Contact us for advice.

No, even broken pieces of tile don’t produce much dust, so there should be little health risk. But contact us and we will help you dispose of them safely.

Can I repair or re-skim walls or ceilings that are coated with decorative coating? Please contact us for advice.

Further information

Can I remove and dispose of plastic floor tiles that contain asbestos?

If you have any questions about asbestos, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

Plastic floor tiles are unlikely to produce much harmful dust, but you still need to be cautious. Environmental and Waste Regulations state that you should transport and dispose of all waste asbestos safely and properly. We suggest you contact us for advice before removing floor tiles.

Can I overlay old plastic floor tiles that contain asbestos with another floor covering? Generally, this is OK as long as no sanding or scraping is involved. Nailing down floor coverings or gripper rods though the tiles will not produce harmful dust. If in doubt, contact us for more



A guide to Legionella control

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A guide to Legionella control

Legionella control

n Shower heads and hoses should be dismantled and descaled every three months or when the shower rose shows signs of blocking

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in water sources. They can multiply in domestic water systems given the right conditions of temperature and nutrients. Breathing in or ingestion of legionella bacteria can cause a form of pneumonia called legionnaire’s disease, as well as other less serious illnesses.

n If your taps have not been used more than once a week the bath, basin, and sink taps should be run for a minute. Similarly, the shower hose and rose should be flushed through in this manner.

We will carry out risk assessments to our housing stock in line with recommendations determined by the Health and Safety Executive, Approved Code of Practice L8.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Raising the temperature of the warm water is one way to control Legionella growth, but could also increase the risk of burns and scalding. Please take care of the risk of scalding and burns, especially if you have children.

The risk in domestic properties is very small given the relative small size of most domestic water systems and the high throughput. In our larger premises including sheltered housing we employ a specialist contractor to carryout regular assessments and cleansing to ensure that water hygiene is managed and maintained.

Further information If you have any questions about Legionella, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

To avoid the risk of this bacteria forming, the following regular operations are advised: n Legionella survives best in water temperatures of 20 - 45 degrees celsius. It starts to die if heated to above 50 degrees celsius. If you have a hot water cylinder you should ensure that your water temperature exceeds 60 degrees celsius, by turning up your cylinder thermostat



A guide to understanding dampness and condensation

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A guide to understanding dampness and condensation

Is your home damp?

Bottled gas heaters produce large amounts of moisture into the air. This moist air travels through your home and when it comes into contact with a cool surface it will condense and turn to water.

Damp can cause mould on walls and furniture. Damp housing encourages the growth of mould and mites and can increase the risk of respiratory illness.

Where can it happen?

Some damp is caused by condensation. This chapter explains how condensation forms and how you can keep it to a minimum, reducing the risk of dampness and mould growth.

Condensation happens on cold surfaces and in places where there is little movement of air. It often appears as a dark patch in corners near the skirting and on the ceiling.

What is condensation?

Areas with poor ventilation can be prone to condensation. This could be behind furniture; particularly wardrobes, beds drawers and even clothing if they have been placed against an outside wall. Condensation can happen in any room but it is most likely to occur in your bathroom, bedrooms and hallway as they are generally cooler.

There is always some moisture in the air, even if you cannot see it. When the warmer moist air comes into contact with a cool surface, water droplets form. This is what happens when your bathroom mirror steams up. When this happens on your window, the glass mists up and drops of water run down the window. When it happens on a wall, the wall soaks up the moisture and becomes damp. Mould could then grow on the damp areas.

Moisture in the form of condensation is most commonly found in bathrooms and is easily seen on tiles. To prevent mould, open the window after bathing or showering, wipe the tiles down and close the door.

Where does condensation come from? Your body produces moisture all the time, when you breathe and perspire. In fact, the average person produces 0.85 litres of moisture per day through breathing alone.

How can the mould be removed? Mould can be easy to remove. You can normally wipe it off with a disposable cloth using some household cleaner. There is no need to use strong chemicals. Wipe over the area again every few days using diluted household cleaner to stop the mould growing back. This should become part of your regular cleaning routine.

We also put lots of moisture into the air when we take a bath or shower, cook or wash the dishes. Moisture is also produced when we dry clothes indoors or use an unvented tumble dryer. 2

How can condensation be prevented?

n Adequately heat and ventilate rooms at risk

To help reduce the risk of condensation in your home:

n When using an unvented tumble dryer, make sure the hose is put out the window or door.

n Keep a window open when drying clothes indoors; don’t dry clothes over warm radiators

Further information If you have any questions about dampness and condensation, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

n Keep the kitchen door closed when cooking n Keep lids on pots and pans when cooking n Keep the bathroom door closed when running a bath and bathing n Open the bathroom window when finished bathing n Don’t overfill cupboards and wardrobes – make sure air can circulate n If you have an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom make sure to use it n If your home has been fitted with a whole house ventilation system make sure it remains switched on n Don’t keep furniture and wardrobes hard against walls – make sure air can circulate n Keep your heating on low throughout the day in cold weather to maintain a background heat n Avoid using bottle gas heaters as they produce a lot of moisture



A guide to understanding tenants improvements

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A guide to understanding tenants improvements

Getting permission to make alterations or improvements to your home

Satellite television equipment We have no objection to you installing satellite television systems, however, in order to ensure that you do not damage the external fabric of the building we do ask that you obtain our written permission. Many of our properties are either solid wall or non-traditional cavity construction, therefore bolting the brackets required to carry a satellite dish may cause structural damage that could result in damp problems. We will be able to advise on the best method of installation but a few guidelines worth considering are as follows:

You may wish to carry out improvements, alterations or additions to your home, but you must always get our written permission before you start any work. This includes the fixing of a satellite dish or TV aerial and the erection of a garden shed, greenhouse or fencing. Please write to us giving full details of the work you intend to carry out, or complete the online form. We do not normally withhold permission, but the work must be carried out to our standard and have a minimum of 12 months guarantee.

n Check that you are not in a conservation area n Do not connect the satellite dish to the chimney stack

You may also need to get approval from other parties before you start the work, for example, some work may require building regulation approval and planning permission. All works should be carried out by a suitably qualified contractor, for example, alterations to gas or electrical installations. Our staff can advise on this.

n Ensure that the dish is sited lower than the highest part of the roof and should not exceed this height n The dish should not exceed 27.5 inches (70cm) in diameter n If there is an existing satellite dish erected on the building you must contact the local authority to check if planning permission is required

At the end of your tenancy you may be required to leave any fixtures or fittings you have installed or reinstate our original fittings.

If you live in a flat and wish to install satellite apparatus that require cables to run through a communal area, you will need to submit a detailed plan before permission can be granted.

No improvements that you make to your home will affect the rent you pay. There must be no rent arrears outstanding on your account.

For further advice please contact the Property Team on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344. 2

Wood or wood effect flooring

kitchen, central heating and energy efficiency and home security improvements.

We have no objection to you fitting wood or wood effect flooring in your home, however, you will need written permission from us before fitting the flooring.

You must have received our written permission before carrying out the improvement and will need to submit two estimates from bona fide contractors, stating the reason for choosing a particular estimate.

Please note that it may be necessary for the flooring to be removed for maintenance purposes, for example to access concealed pipework or electric cables. In this instance it is your responsibility for removal and any reinstatement of the flooring. We will not be responsible for re-laying, repairing or making good the flooring. For this reason we would suggest that any flooring you fit is ‘clipped together’ rather than glued.

Compensation will only be paid at the end of the tenancy and the amount of compensation will not be the full cost of the work as depreciation will be deducted. Most improvements have a notional life of less than 10 years. We suggest that you keep all of the receipts for improvement work that you carry out. This will help us to process your compensation easily.

Wood or wood effect flooring is not covered by standard household insurance. If you have wood or wood effect flooring in your home, please check with your insurer that it is covered, including re-laying and making good any damage.

Also, the amount of compensation will be set against any sums that may be owed to us. Where the tenancy is terminated through a possession claim, based on breach of Tenancy Agreement, you will not normally be entitled to compensation.

If you move from the property, you should remove the flooring and reinstate the floor to its original condition.

Further information If you have any questions about tenant improvements, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

This also applies to vinyl floor coverings.

Compensation for improvements If your tenancy is coming to an end, you may be able to get compensation from us for certain improvements, such as a new bathroom, toilet, 3


A guide to aids and adaptations

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A guide to aids and adaptations

What is the aids and adaptations service?

We can fund adaptations up to a maximum of ÂŁ15,000. Above this tenants will need to apply to Durham County Council for a Disabled Facilities Grant.

This is a discretionary service provided by livin for people who live in one of our homes and need it adapting because they:

Who can apply for an adaptation?

n Have difficulty with normal day to day activities because of age, illness or disability

Tenants can apply if they live in a livin property; however an assessment needs to be carried out by a member of the Occupational Therapy team, who are employed by Durham County Council Social Services, before we can carry out any work.

n Have problems with climbing steps or stairs n Have problems getting in and out of their home or around the rooms inside it n Have difficulty with personal care such as bathing or using the toilet

How to apply for an assessment

It is an alteration to the home to make it easier to carry out daily activities such as:

To apply, contact Social Care Direct and ask to be referred to Social Services for an Occupational Therapy assessment. Contact Social Care Direct by:

n Getting in and out of the home

Telephone: 0845 8505010

What is an adaptation?

Fax: 0191 3835752

n Climbing steps or stairs

Minicom: 01429 884124

n Preparing meals


n Using the toilet

It is essential to contact Social Care Direct to request an assessment as they may request personal details and consent may also be required for an assessment to be carried out.

n Bathing We may be able to help with providing: n Grabrails or handrails n Stair lifts or vertical lifts

What happens next?

n Ramps for wheelchair users only (not motorised scooters)

When Social Services receive a request the Occupational Therapy service will arrange to visit to carry out an assessment.

n Alterations to doors and steps n Alterations to bathrooms or kitchens 2

What happens after the assessment?

The appointment will be confirmed by letter or telephone, but if this is inconvenient, another time can easily be arranged.

Following your assessment your levels of need will be determined as either:

An Occupational Therapist or an Occupational Therapy Assistant will carry out an assessment using the Fair Access to Care (FAC’s) guidelines from the Government. (For more information on this visit the Department of Health website at and check the publications section).

n Critical n Substantial n Moderate n Low Only those that are assessed as having a critical or substantial need will be eligible for adaptations.

What will happen during the assessment? You may like to ask a member of your family or a friend to be with you during the assessment.

It is important to remember that what may be a solution to another person with similar needs may not be the answer for you.

You will be asked questions about your health, disabilities and how you cope with daily activities. Any information that you give to the Occupational Therapist including medical and personal details is treated in the strictest confidence.

The Occupational Therapist or the Occupational Therapy Assistant may visit with a surveyor or Occupational therapist from livin to see if the recommendations made are feasible and comply with law.

You will be asked to show them how you carry out the tasks which are difficult for you and perhaps try out some equipment that may help you.

The most cost effective solution to your problems will always be recommended. Showers, stair lifts and ramps are always a last resort and cannot be recommended for reasons of personal choice alone.

The Occupational Therapy staff will suggest ways of helping with your difficulties and discuss what is available to you. They may recommend adaptations to your home or equipment which will help you to carry out an activity more easily and safely.

Ramps are only installed if you are dependent upon a wheelchair (to access your home). It is sometimes necessary to use specialist companies to carry out some of the work (stair lifts and ramps for example). If this is the case we will let you know when the adaptation is approved.

You may be asked to go for Physiotherapy for further rehabilitation before a decision about alterations to your home to meet your long term needs can be made. 3


A guide to aids and adaptations

The work on your adaptation will be carried out as soon as possible and you will receive a letter to tell you when it has been ordered with a contact name and telephone number to enquire about the time of the work.

especially if your existing one is not suitable for adaptations. However, Occupational Therapists or Occupational Therapy Assistants can only write a letter of support to livin highlighting the type of property you need. This information will be used when they allocate empty properties.

Major items like stair lifts and bathroom alterations will take longer than small ones like grab-rails and handrails. This is because of the extra time needed to carry out the surveys necessary at the planning stage, ordering the materials and carrying out the work.

If you are currently on a housing list, you are not eligible for adaptations other than minor health and safety works to your current property whilst you wait.

Will I have to pay towards the adaptation?

Once your application has been assessed your adaptation will be placed on our waiting list in date order.

No, we do not charge for this type of work to be carried out. We currently have a limited budget for Disabled Persons Adaptations that is set from our annual budget.

Only adaptations that have been assessed as urgent by the Occupational Therapy Team will be moved to the top of the list.

You will be required to complete an eligibility declaration to assist livin in this process to claim relief for Value Added Tax (VAT) on the work to your home.

Can livin refuse to carry out the work? Adaptations are a discretionary service and all recommendations from the Occupational Therapy team will be assessed by the Property and Development team. If the work is not classed as reasonable or practicable, we may refuse to do the work. We will confirm in writing why we have refused to do the work.

How long will I wait for an adaptation? There is not a set timescale for adaptations, however, from the assessment to the work being complete could take 12 months.

What if my home is not suitable for adaptations? Occasionally the outcome of the assessment is that you need a more suitable property, 4

How much disruption will there be during the works? There may be some disturbance to your home during the works, particularly if we are doing internal alterations. This will however be kept to a minimum by the workmen who will clear up afterwards. All new fittings and fixtures will be decorated where necessary. However, we are not responsible for redecoration of existing areas disturbed by the works. Whenever possible the workmen will restore or provide all existing essential amenities within your property at the end of each working day. The contractor that will be carrying out the work will visit you before commencement of the work to inform you of all arrangements.

Further information If you have any questions about adaptations please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.



A guide to services to help you in your home and how we manage your neighbourhood and communities

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A guide to services to help you in your home and how we manage your neighbourhood and communities

Supported services

Care Connect

We know that managing a new home can be difficult, especially if it is your first tenancy. If you are having problems with your tenancy, please contact us and we may be able to provide support and advice.

The Care Connect service is an alarm service provided by Durham County Council.

We can help you to:

This provides 24-hour emergency cover every day of the year. In the event of an emergency, operators will respond to your call and offer reassurance and appropriate support.

n Understand your tenancy agreement and how to keep it

For more information about this service contact Durham County Council.

n Help you manage your money and your rent payments

Tenancy visits We carry out annual visits to your home to talk to you about your tenancy and ensure that you are keeping to your tenancy conditions.

n Help you claim benefits n Provide advice on getting your gas and electric connected

During this visit we will update the information we have on you and your household so that we can make sure you are getting the right services.

n Advise you how to look after your property n Help you deal with antisocial behaviour n Assess if you need extra support and put you in touch with other support agencies, if you need them. Some of these agencies can help people with alcohol and drug problems

Garden maintenance scheme

Supported/Sheltered housing

Sponsored decoration scheme for our vulnerable tenants

We provide a garden maintenance service for vulnerable tenants needing support to maintain their garden. Please contact us for further information.

This type of housing can help older and vulnerable people to keep their independence and maintain their privacy in a safe environment by providing a low level of support.

The sponsored decoration scheme is available to vulnerable tenants who have had major works carried out in their homes or who have moved into a home which is in need of decoration. If you are eligible for the scheme, you can exchange

If you are living in supported housing you can choose how much you become involved in any activities that take place in the schemes. 2

communal areas inside or outside flats

the decoration allowance you receive to have up to two rooms fully decorated to your own requirements. You would be required to provide your own decoration materials. If you would like further details about this scheme please contact your Property Services Team.

n Controlling your children when they are playing outside your property n Making sure any visitors respect your neighbours and the area you live in whilst they are travelling to and from, and while they are in your home

Being a good neighbour Everyone is entitled to enjoy their home quietly and peacefully. You must not cause nuisance or disturb your neighbours. You must also make sure that anyone living with you or visiting your home behaves responsibly.

Nuisance If your neighbour is being too noisy or is causing a nuisance, talking to them is often the best way to solve the problem. Most people are reasonable if you speak to them in person and sometimes they may not realise that they are causing a nuisance.

As a good neighbour, please be considerate by: n Keeping the volume of televisions, radios and stereos as low as possible, late at night and early in the morning

If you do not think you are able to sort the problem out yourself please contact us and we will discuss the best way to deal with it.

n Trying to avoid installing music systems against walls that divide you and your neighbour

Communal areas

n Carrying out work to your home during reasonable hours

Everyone living in your block is responsible for keeping the shared communal areas neat, clean and tidy. This includes the stairs, landing and hallways.

n Parking vehicles responsibly and respecting your neighbours’ parking and access needs

You must not leave rubbish on the stairs or in the hallways, as this may be a safety hazard. You must not place any items of furniture in the hallways or on landings – this could be a hazard if people need to leave the block quickly in an emergency. Keep communal areas secure by keeping doors shut when not in use.

n Return your rubbish bin back to its normal storage area when it has been emptied n Being a responsible pet owner, for example, if you have a dog, make sure it does not bark or whine for long periods and arrange for it not to be left alone if you are away from home for a long time. Do not let it soil 3


A guide to services to help you in your home and how we manage your neighbourhood and communities Dumping rubbish

We inspect shared areas on a regular basis. Please contact your Communities Team if you need to report any problems or if you would like to know more about the inspections for the shared areas near your home.

We want neighbourhoods to be clean and attractive places to live. If you find dumped rubbish in a shared area or you see someone dumping rubbish in your neighbourhood, please contact your Communities Team. If the rubbish has been dumped on land we are responsible for we will take necessary action. If it is not on our land we provide appropriate guidance and advice to try to resolve the problem.

Enviromental assessments The Communities Team will carry out regular assessments to make sure that the neighbourhood is clean and well maintained. If you notice any problems in your neighbourhood or you would like more information about assessments in your neighbourhood please contact your Communities Team.

Neighbourhood improvements We carry out a wide range of work in your neighbourhood including: n Ground maintenance – we will maintain grass, trees and flowerbeds on open spaces that we are responsible for

Community plans 19 community plans have been produced that highlight the key issues across each of our communities. Residents and tenants helped identify issues and actions to improve their community after teams at livin carried out a series of public consultation events. Our teams will work in partnership to deliver actions from each plan in a bid to tackle problems and improve neighbourhoods. To find out more or to view a copy of your community plan visit our website or call the Community Team using the contact details at the front of this chapter.

n Unadopted footpaths – we will keep footpaths that are our responsibility maintained so they are safe n Neighbourhood improvements – we put money aside to improve car park areas and so on n Open air communal areas – we inspect and manage our garage blocks, garage sites and garden sites

Vandalism and graffiti If you see vandalism or graffiti please let us know, if it is on our land or property we will arrange for it to be removed. If it is not our land or property we will refer your report to Durham County Council.

Abandoned homes If you think that a property that is owned by us looks abandoned, please tell us immediately. We will investigate and take the appropriate action. 4

livin community fund

amount of household waste to dispose of you can take it to any of the council amenity sites free of charge.

The livin community fund is open to all tenants or residents as well as community groups from our neighbourhoods. Our aim is to create economic, social and environmental communities by investing in local projects and initiatives.

The council also provided a bulky waste collection for items to be removed from outside your home. For more information on the full range of services and any charges contact Durham County Council.

We are encouraging initiatives to tackle issues in three different categories:

Street lighting

Economic – to help people and neighbourhoods to thrive. This includes tackling unemployment, financial confidence, antisocial behaviour and much more

If you notice a broken or faulty street light you should contact Durham County Council to report it.

Social – to help to improve the health and wellbeing of Residents

Stray dogs Please contact Durham County Council’s Dog Warden service to report stray dogs.

Environmental – to help residents to live ‘greener’ and be environmentally responsible as well as improving the landscape where you live

Vermin and pests

If you’ve got an idea simply fill in a submission form which can be found online or by requesting a form from our Improving Communities Team.

For advice about pest control and problems with vermin you should contact Durham County Council.

Untaxed and abandoned vehicles

Further information

We will investigate untaxed or abandoned vehicles that are found in our neighbourhoods; however these vehicles can also be reported to Durham County Council.

If you have any questions about our services please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. If you need to contact Durham County Council, please telephone 0300 123 7070.

Rubbish and refuse collection Durham County Council is responsible for both rubbish and refuse collections. A wheeled bin collection service is provided for each home and has a regular collection. If you have a large 5


A guide to tackling antisocial behaviour

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A guide to tackling antisocial behaviour

Tackling antisocial behaviour

n Family intervention plan (FIP): FIP’s are useful for families if their children are causing ASB. Support workers will work closely with families to improve parenting skills, ensure children attend school and offer other advice and support to reduce ASB caused by youths.

This chapter is to give you advice if you are suffering from, or have witnessed antisocial behaviour (ASB) and want to report it to us. ASB can have a serious negative effect on the quality of life of individuals and of entire communities if allowed to continue unchallenged.

n Housing behaviour agreements (HBA): These agreements are used by livin to outline the terms of the livin Tenancy Agreement to perpetrators of ASB. They are signed by these individuals to show that they understand what their obligations are and they agree to comply with them.

We have a dedicated team of experienced and highly trained staff to deal with serious ASB and support victims and witnesses. ASB can include: n Excessive noise n Drunken and offensive behaviour n Verbal abuse

n Acceptable behaviour contracts (ABC): These are similar to HBA’s but are issued in partnership with Durham County Council and the local Police. The contracts are designed to prohibit individuals from engaging in ASB in the local area and are monitored by multiple agencies to ensure they are being adhered to.

n Violence (including threats of violence) n Criminal damage n Illegal drug cultivation and dealing in addition to other criminal activities.

Solutions to deal with ASB We have a range of measures to resolve and prevent ASB:

n Good neighbour agreements for new tenants: These are given to new tenants at sign-up as a further reminder as to what their responsibilities are when moving into the community.

n A dedicated 24 hour telephone reporting system n Mediation: This is conducted by trained and impartial professionals, allowing residents to speak to each other in a non formal setting in order to resolve issues between them.

n Covert CCTV: Used to monitor more serious cases of ASB such as criminal activities, the use of technical equipment often provides invaluable evidence against


n Vexatious complaint letters: These letters are served on persistent complainers who make unwarranted complaints with little or no substance regularly. This is a preventative tool which may be followed with an injunction.

perpetrators of ASB, which is used in court for possession proceedings and/or legal injunctions, in addition to being passed to police as part of criminal investigations.

n Noise monitoring: The use of technical equipment can be installed to record incidents of excessive noise such as loud music, drunken parties or other noise at unreasonable hours of the day and night.

n Demotion and/or suspension of preserved right to buy/acquire In appropriate circumstances enforcement action can be taken in cases involving antisocial behaviour which will demote a tenancy to shorthold/starter from being fully assured as detailed within chapter two. Suspension of preserved right to buy or right to acquire may be the consequence of action taken in court proceedings related to antisocial behaviour.

n Possession notices: These are legal notices served once other warnings and remedies have failed or been ignored. This is the first legal step in recovering possession of properties from persistent perpetrators of ASB; if incidents continue then the case will be progressed to County Court and heard before a judge. n Trespass letters: Served on people who are not tenants but are visiting livin properties and causing problems for local residents and behaving in an unreasonable manner. These letters prohibit individuals from visiting a given address or being in a given locality. They are enforced by a legal injunction if they are breached.

Further Information If you have any questions about antisocial behaviour, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. ASB can be reported 24 hours a day on the ASB report line: 01388 424690 (this is replied to during office hours Monday to Friday).

n Antisocial behaviour injunctions: These served on individuals and prohibit them from engaging in ASB. If breached, these injunctions can be heard at court and individuals may receive a large fine or in serious cases imprisonment. 3


A guide to getting involved

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A guide to getting involved


Below is a brief overview of the various ways you can get involved.

Our tenants are at the heart of the services that we provide and your views on how well we are doing are important to us.

Tenants panel The panel meets every month and works with us to improve services by commenting on, and developing, ideas and proposals to make a real difference to the services we provide.

This chapter explains how you can get involved in telling us what you think of our services. This could cover repairs, home improvement works, antisocial behaviour and the work we do in our neighbourhoods.

Becoming a board member Register your interest in becoming a Board member and we will contact you when vacancies arise.

We are committed to delivering excellent services to you, but we can only do that if we know what you want.

Mystery shopping

Why get involved?

Mystery shopping is an easy way to get involved. It’s a great way for you to test the services that you receive. You can do this by making anonymous phone calls, receiving a visit to your home, sending emails or by visiting our website. We will then use your findings to improve service delivery.

By getting involved you can: n Influence decisions that affect you and your neighbours n Give your views on the services you receive n Help us to understand the needs of people from different backgrounds

Scrutiny panel

n Make a difference, meet people and develop your own skills

Effective Tenants Scrutiny is an important part of co-regulation and offers an enhanced role for tenants ensuring that the priorities and views of tenants are at the heart of the organisation. The Scrutiny Group works on behalf of tenants to ensure that livin is a well-managed, viable organisation that puts tenants at the heart of its business. It provides an independent check and

n Make your area a better place to live

Ways to get involved There are many ways you can get involved ranging from attending meetings to being involved from your home on the Readers Panel.


Taking part in consultations, forums or public meetings

if needed challenge to drive up performance, advises and influences standards to improve service delivery and standards of performance.

Give us your views on consultations through attending local events, road shows, forums and public meetings.

Readers panel Comment on documents produced by livin by post or email.

“Your voice local choice� community plans

Setting up or taking part in your local tenant/ resident association.

Community plans are important commitments that we make to residents in our neighbourhoods. You can get involved by telling us what is important to you and your neighbourhood. You can also get involved in monitoring the development and progress of these commitments.

Tenant and resident associations are groups of people who live in the same area that get together to make a positive difference in their area. They are a great way of bringing communities together to deal with local issues and run social events. Get in touch if you and your neighbours are interested in setting up a group. We offer support to all of our affiliated residents associations.

Taking part in regular surveys Take part in telephone surveys, postal surveys or talk to our teams to give your views about the services you receive.

Sedgefield residents federation This is a group made up of tenant and resident associations and other community groups within the area we manage.

Frequently asked questions I am interested in getting involved, what do I need to do?

Focus groups

We have a list of volunteers which is made up of all the tenants and leaseholders who want to get involved. To join the list we just need some information about you, so please complete the form on our website or give us a ring.

We often create focus groups to look at individual service areas, for example, antisocial behaviour and financial inclusion.



A guide to getting involved

How much time will it take to get involved? The amount of time you give will depend on the ways you choose to get involved. If you don’t have much time there are lots of quick ways you can get involved.

Will any training be provided to help me get involved? We will provide training to help tenants and leaseholders with certain types of involvement, depending on how you want to get involved.

Do you pay expenses for meetings? We cover out of pocket expenses such as travel costs, childcare and carer expenses. This is so that everyone has an equal chance to get involved regardless of personal financial circumstances.

Further information If you have any questions about getting involved please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. Further information on getting involved can also be found on our website at



A guide to giving feedback on our services

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A guide to giving feedback on our services


General comments and suggestions to improve services

This chapter tells you what to do when you want to give us your feedback about the services we provide. This can include compliments, complaints and general comments to give us suggestions about how we can improve the services we give you.

Your comments may not be a compliment or complaint, but they are still important to us. They can help us to plan future services and give us ideas on how to improve the services we provide.

How to give us your feedback

What type of feedback can I give?

You can give us your feedback: n By completing the feedback form on the website

Compliments We really would like to hear from you if you are happy with our services. If there is a particular person you have spoken to, or a service you think that we are really good at, please let us know. Any compliment you give us will be forwarded to the person or service team you are praising.

n In person to one of our officers n By telephoning us on 0800 587 4538 and asking for the Customer Relations Team n In writing (letter, fax or email) n By completing a satisfaction survey - we send these to customers using our services


You can give us your comments yourself or you can ask someone to do this on your behalf. If you would like someone to deal with this on your behalf please tell us on the comments form. You can also ask our staff to help you. If you wish to refer a complaint to us via a Councillor, Board Member or MP an authorisation form must be completed before your complaint can be discussed with your representative.

We always try to provide you with an excellent service but recognise that sometimes things can go wrong. We regard your comments as an opportunity to look at if our services are meeting your needs or not. Don’t be afraid to tell us what you think we are doing wrong. Your right to services will not be affected if you make a complaint. We need to know so that we can make changes and stop these problems happening again. Your complaint is the first step in helping us put matters right.

We will acknowledge any feedback you give us within two working days, but we have a specific procedure for dealing with complaints (see overleaf). 2


You can get independent advice on making a complaint from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Their contact details can be found in the phone book.

If you do not consider the matter has been dealt with at Stage 2 in accordance with our Customer Feedback Policy, you can write us outlining the reasons why within 28 days of the date on your stage 2 closing letter. If your reasons are considered valid we will arrange for your complaint to be reviewed by our Appeals Panel.

Our complaints procedure If you require the services of an interpreter or translator in making your complaint, please let us know.

What happens next?

Standard complaint stages: Informal

Stage 1 We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two working days. This will be either verbally, in writing or by email, confirming the comment you made, when we received it, and who will be responsible for handling and monitoring your complaint. We will aim to visit you to resolve Stage 1 complaints within 10 working days. If the investigation will take longer than this, we will update you in writing every 10 working days. Once the Stage 1 investigation is concluded we will write to you with our findings. If you do not consider the matter has been handled in accordance with our Customer Feedback Policy you can ask for your complaint to be investigated further, however, you must do this within 28 days of the date on your Stage 1 closing letter.

This is an opportunity for us to deal with issues, ‘on the spot’, at the first point of contact.

Stage 1 If you are not satisfied with the outcome of how we have dealt with your complaint during the informal process, you can ask to have the outcome reviewed by a manager. This is Stage 1 of our internal complaints procedure. (For details of how your complaint will be dealt with see ‘What happens next?’)

Stage 2 If you do not consider the matter has been dealt with in accordance with our Customer Feedback Policy, you can ask to have the outcome reviewed by another officer from an unrelated area.

Please note: We will not reopen your complaint if you simply do not agree with the stage 1 decision. 3


A guide to giving feedback on our services

Stage 2

passed to the Appeals Panel for a review hearing. The Appeals Panel will review the outcome of any Stage 2 complaint or any very serious or multi-department complaint. They aim to contact you within three working days and give you an expected hearing date for dealing with your complaint within 28 working days. They also aim to give you a full response to your complaint within 15 working days of the Panel Review Hearing being held. If there are any delays in issuing the full response, you will be contacted in writing to explain why.

When we receive your request we will send an acknowledgement receipt within two working days. If your reasons are not considered valid we will write to you and let you know. If your reasons are considered valid your complaint will be passed to one of our officers working in a service area unrelated to the one you are complaining about. They will visit you to investigate your complaint and aim to contact you with their findings within 10 working days. If the investigation will take longer than this, we will update you in writing every 10 working days.

If your appeal is upheld you will receive a written apology, which will include:

Once the Stage 2 investigation is concluded we will write to you with our findings. If you do not consider the matter has been handled in accordance with our Customer Feedback Policy you can appeal and ask for your complaint to be reviewed by the Appeals Hearing Panel. However, you must do this within 28 days of the date on your Stage 2 closing letter.

n Confirmation of the details of the complaint n Details of the result of the complaint n A clear statement of what we have done, or will do, to resolve the complaint (including a timescale if necessary) n A clear statement of any action we have taken, or will be taking, to make sure that the circumstances that made you complain do not happen again

Please note: We will not reopen your complaint if you simply do not agree with the Stage 2 decision.

At the completion of the appeal hearing, we will give you details of how to complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service, in case you still do not consider your complaint resolved.

Appeal If your reasons for requesting an appeal hearing are not considered valid we will write to you and let you know. If your reasons are considered valid you will receive an acknowledgement within three working days and your appeal will be


Please note that where an interpreter or translator is required, the time limit for response may be extended by five working days at any stage within the complaints process.

Further information

Complaints about a partner or contractor

You can also find out more information via our website at

For further information about giving feedback, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

If you have a complaint regarding one of our partner contractors, please let us know. As your landlord we need to know if the service you receive from our partners is not satisfactory. Complaints received about our partners will be logged and referred to the partner’s complaints team for action. Our partners are expected to follow livin’s internal complaints policy and procedure and we will monitor their actions and response to your complaint and log the outcome.

Anonymous complaints Occasionally we may receive a complaint from a complainant who wishes to remain anonymous. We reserve the right not to investigate anonymous complaints where it is clear that a full investigation is not practicable or the grounds of the complaint are not within our remit.



A guide to moving on

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to moving on Once we have your completed application form we will check to see if you can join the scheme and we will let you know in writing. We will also send you a ‘User Guide’ which tells you the next steps.

We have introduced this chapter to provide information to existing tenants who may want to move to another livin home or to another social landlord.

Durham Key Options

Mutual exchange

We let our homes through the Durham Key Options choice based lettings scheme. This is a partnership between:

Some council or housing association tenants may exchange (swap) their homes with each other.

n livin

If you are interested in swapping your home, there are two ways you can do this, through Durham Key Options or the Homeswapper scheme.

n Cestria Community Housing Association n Dale and Valley Homes n Derwentside Homes

Durham Key Options (County Durham only)

n Durham County Council n East Durham Homes

n You can apply to advertise your home through the Durham Key Options scheme. You will need to log-on to and complete the mutual exchange application, giving details of your home. We will check your application and let you know if it has been accepted

n Teesdale Housing Association If you wish to move to a home owned by one of the landlords above you will need to fill in the Durham Key Options application form. You can do this by either: n Completing an application form, we can send you one through the post

n If you cannot complete the application form online please contact us and we will send you a form in the post or we can

n Completing the form online at

visit you in your home to help you fill in the application form if necessary

n We can also visit you in your home to help you complete a form if necessary


If you find another home and the other tenant agrees they want to move into your home you will need to contact us immediately. Your application to exchange homes must be approved by the appropriate landlords

If your application is accepted your home will be advertised as a mutual exchange property on the Durham Key Options website. You will be able to view other available mutual exchange properties and other tenants will be able to see your advert. For more information about mutual exchange please contact us or visit our website. This scheme only includes properties from the Durham Key Option partner landlords.

Further information If you have any questions about moving on, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile.

Homeswapper (national scheme)

Further information relating to moving on can also be found on our website at

livin is part of the National Homeswapper service which helps council and housing association tenants from across the country to swap homes. n If you are interested in advertising your home on this website you will need to visit and complete some details about your home and also the type of home you are interested in. We will then receive a request from Homeswapper to approve your application. If your application is accepted you will be able to log onto the website and look at other properties n If you do not have access to the internet you will need to contact us and we will send you the form out in the post or we can visit you in your home to help you fill in the application form if necessary.



A guide to ending your tenancy

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


A guide to ending your tenancy


are usually advertised for letting on the Thursday following receipt of any notice.

If you are a livin tenant and want to end your tenancy, you need to be aware that it is much more than just returning your keys.

We will, in most cases, offer your property to someone the following week. We may also need to make arrangements for the next tenant to view your property so that they can make an informed choice.

How much notice do I have to give? You must give us four weeks written notice to end your tenancy*. We will send you a ‘notice to terminate’ form, or you can fill one in online. Your tenancy can end on any day of the week and you must give us the keys by 12 noon the same day. If you leave your home without telling us, you will still be liable for four weeks rent.

We will always make an appointment with you first if we wish to show anyone around your home. We may also arrange for your utility services to be switched to our preferred supplier. This process takes approximately 28 days so if you decide to withdraw or extend your notice, please let us know immediately.

*We may reduce the notice period in certain exceptional circumstances. Please contact us for further information.

Can I change my mind? If you decide not to move or if you need more time to move out, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 / 0300 111 2344 to discuss this further.

What do I need to do before I leave? You must leave your home clean, empty and in good condition. We may charge you if we have to remove any items which have been left behind. You must allow our Home Letting Coordinator access to inspect your home before you leave to discuss any issues and arrange for any outstanding repairs to be reported.

How do I return my keys? You must contact us to make arrangements for us to collect all of your keys. You can contact us at any time to collect your keys before your tenancy is due to end but you will be charged rent up to the day your tenancy officially ends. You will be given a receipt that shows how many keys you returned to us and time you handed them in. If the keys are not returned on time or there are any keys missing, we will charge you for changing the locks and for any rent lost during this time.

You must make sure that all fixtures and fittings are left intact. If there are broken or missing items you may be charged for replacing them. We will use the notice period to advertise and allocate your home to the next tenant. Properties 2

What do I need to do on my moving out day? You must supply your gas, electricity and water meter readings to your suppliers to make sure your final bill is accurate. You must inform the Durham County Council, Council Tax and Benefits section (if applicable) that you are moving and your forwarding address as this may affect any housing benefit claim. Hand over all keys to your Home Letting Co-ordinator. Leave your home clean, tidy and empty.

Further information For further information about moving on, please contact us on 0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 if using a mobile. You can also find out more information via our website at



Useful contact details

0800 587 4538 or 0300 111 2344 1


Useful contact details

Contact livin

Customer Service Centre (including 24 hour repair reporting)

0800 587 4538 (free from a landline) 0300 111 2344 (cheaper from mobiles - charges vary)


visit: email: twitter: @weare_livin

General switchboard

0845 505 5500

Automated rent payment line

01388 814 704

Reporting anti social behaviour (out of hours)

01388 424 4690

Advice and support Citizens Advice Bureau

0844 499 4123

County Durham Welfare Rights

0191 370 8787

Social Care Direct

0845 850 5010

Age UK

0800 169 6565


0300 123 3393

Women’s Aid National Helpline

0808 200 0247

National Centre for Domestic Abuse

0844 804 4999

Victim Support

0845 277 0977 2

Electricity, gas and water National Grid (Gas Leaks)

0800 111 999

Gas Supplier

0870 608 1524

Electricity Supplier

0845 601 3268

Northern Electricity Dist. Ltd (loss of power)

0800 668 877

Northumbrian Water

0845 717 1100

The Energy Saving Trust

0800 512 012

Other useful numbers Durham County Council (All Departments)

0300 123 4567

Department of Work and Pensions

0845 606 0265

Benefits Agency (Jobcentre plus)

0191 382 5000

Durham County Credit Union

0191 375 7677


111 (24 hour non-emergency urgent care)

Police (Durham Constabulary)

101 (24 hour non-emergency contact number)


livin Home Guide  

Everything you need to know about your tenancy in one place